Birth plans are pretty common these days. They can be great tools for helping sort through birth options. Don't wait until the third trimester to work on your birth plan. You might realize you feel strongly about a certain option, and might decide to change care providers or place of birth to better align with your desires. Some doctors and hospitals are not open to birth plans, and this might lead you to question whether that doctor will be a good fit for your labor and birth. Labor isn't a time when you want to have to go in with your defenses up and ready to fight. Sometimes this is necessary, but it is certainly not ideal. There are some things you can do to help your birth plan be received in a positive manner.
1. Know what is "normal" for your place of birth.
Realize that if you go to a hospital asking for no fetal monitoring, when the hospital policy mandates continuous fetal monitoring for every laboring woman, your plan isn't likely to be embraced. If you ask for a squat bar in a facility that doesn't even have squat bars, you have wasted space on your paper. Call the labor and delivery unit of the hospital in which you plan to give birth, and ask about policies and equipment availability. Ask detailed questions like "How many women have you seen labor in the tub in the last month?" You might find that while the hospital says they have tubs, the tubs are used as storage areas or even lack hot water!
2. Your birth plan should be a summary of conversations you have already had with your care provider.
This helps you decide if your care provider will facilitate the birth you desire, and gives the L&D nurses confidence to proceed. For example, if delayed (also called optimal) cord clamping is important to you, and if your doctor objects when you discuss it, you might want to find a different care provider. Also, if you are able to start your birth plan with "My doctor and I have agreed to the following ...", this communicates to your nurse that your doctor is already on board with your preferences.
3. Birth plan should be in bullet point, items listed in order of occurrence, and
limited to one page.
In a hospital setting, your nurse likely has several patients to care for at the same time. Make your birth plan concise and easy to read. For an extra touch, use pretty paper, stickers, or a creative theme to help your birth plan stand out. Keep the labor and birth plan on one page and postpartum and baby care information on another page.
For more help in writing a birth plan, contact your local labor doula to learn what services are available. If you are in the greater Houston, TX area, I would love to speak with you regarding a la carte birth planning sessions or a full labor doula package.